The MPA universal in home care proposal take 3: maybe Elon Musk can help

So — to recap, I almost didn’t write about the Maine People’s Alliance referendum drive to bring universal in home care to Maine for a couple reasons. First, I knew I’d end up writing a follow-up post, and I hate that. 

Second, I knew, well, once you get me started … my diatribes can go on like a camera panning out too slowly on a scene in a movie. There’s so much more to say about the partisan gridlock blocking legislative progress to the detriment of Maine’s citizens. And how that partisan gridlock is the reason for the overuse of the people’s referendum process in recent election cycles.

And how the referendum process isn’t the greatest way to legislate and how legislators are the first to say that unless it’s a cause they agree with, but they’re the last to change it.

Cue Shawn Scott. But I won’t because I’d rather bring Elon Musk into the discussion.

The link between in home care and Musk of Paypal and Tesla fame? Bear with me.

My youngest is pretty heavy into technology, and in an attempt to keep his old school mom current, he updates me on tech and gaming news. Memes, too. 🙂

In an earlier tech talk, my son said that  Musk finally said something that made him pay attention: Musk believes a universal base income is the best way to combat poverty and economic inequity in our society.

Dr. King and others have come to the same conclusion.  Suddenly I, too, was intrigued by Musk.

This time my son told me that Musk created an artificial intelligence (AI) to play a video game called DoTa 2 using a trial and error program. Within six months the AI was able to beat the top world players in the game (believe it or not, there are pro-gamers) and remains undefeated. 

The AI came up with strategies that top players are now studying to incorporate into their game play.

We joked about all the things that might benefit from a little Musk AI, and systems of governance came up immediately. Artificial intelligence might be the answer to our stagnating, two-party skirmish politics and to potentially divisive issues like funding necessary social services.

Maybe Musk could create some kind of policy wonk AI. He could invent a state legislature one, an executive branch one, maybe a secretary of state one — most definitely a Congressional one.

It would probably take more than a simple trial and error program and longer than six months, but I bet a legislative AI could analyze all the cumulative data pertaining to a set number of recent legislatures — maybe all the way back to 2003 when voters asked the state for 55 percent of education for the first time.

(I figured I’d find a way to tie that subject into all three posts!)

The AI could analyze all the relevant proposed legislation, hearings, testimony votes and outcomes, etc. Maybe throw in some demographic and economic data, too.

Then the AI could teach lawmakers other and better ways to do their jobs, like the players of DoTa 2. Legislators would be left will little room to hide behind party ideology unless they could explain why the AI’s data is wrong.

That would lead to more progress and fewer referenda, and then the Secretary of State could use the AI in that office to run the best possible funding solution for the few that are needed/successful. Again, the legislators would have little room to waffle on what to do with the voters’ wishes.

I say this all tongue-and-cheek, of course. I find AI fascinating and scary and in need of regulation from the get-go, which it hasn’t been so far. I think the lessons learned in Election 2016 regarding unregulated internet platforms should inform us about how to handle AI, but I digress …

The point being, we humans are now capable of inventing machines that can learn to solve our problems more effectively and efficiently than we can. It’s been one thing to invent machines with amazing capacities to do things for us.

It’s entirely another to have machines capable of achieving thought evolutions faster and broader than ours. Of course, we might evolve our thinking a bit faster if we were a little less focused on all our machines, but again, digression …

Machines are teaching us that our challenges may not be as difficult as our partisan policymakers have led us to believe. Like those top DoTa 2 players, lawmakers, lobbyists and activists — even us ordinary citizens — need to learn to think like an AI is kicking our butts.

We need to practice thinking of things we wouldn’t normally think of in our polarized politics to depolarize a bit.

Things like a universal in home care proposal with a more conservative argument-proof funding mechanism.

Patricia Callahan

About Patricia Callahan

Trish is a writer who lives in Augusta. She has worked professionally in education and social services.